Animal life in the boreal forest is far less diverse than in most temperate zone ecosystems. One component of the taiga fauna, conspicuous for its frequent devastating effects on thousands of hectares of forest, is that of phytophagous insects. Populations of these insects, which include pine sawflies, spruce budworms, bark beetles, and many others that attack conifers, are capable of escaping natural enemies and building up to huge population densities. The large monospecific stands of the boreal forest may be especially vulnerable. The high numbers of insects during the warm months is a main explanation for the large numbers of birds that migrate from the south to breed in the taiga, especially large numbers of species of warblers and thrushes. A number of bird species are adapted to being residents of the taiga. Grouses such as the capercaillie of the Old World, are adapted to year-round life in the taiga, as are some owls, woodpeckers, tits, nuthatches, crossbills, and crows. Small mammal herbivores of the boreal forest include the squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and snowshoe hares. These provide food for a small number of predator species, including the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and members of the weasel family. The moose (Alces alces) (called elk in the Old World) has a wide geographic distribution in the taiga. They are prey for wolves (Canis lupus) and occasionally the brown bear (Ursus arctos).

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